GAY TIMES November 2005

Did you know that gay men and paedophiles are the same thing? That gay people cannot be trusted to tell the truth and are incapable of sympathising with people who feel differently to themselves? Did you know that gay men simply cannot obey rules and have absolutely no control over their disordered sexual impulses?

It’s true. How do I know it’s true? Because the pope told me so, and he’s infallible. Who says he’s infallible? Why, he does, so it must be true.

The pope has a direct line to God, you see (the only person outside of an asylum who has) and knows precisely what our Saviour wants. Which, by some amazing coincidence, always seems to be the same as what pope Ratpoison wants.

Now, it seems, Our Heavenly Father has told Ratpoison personally that he wants all gay men expelled from the Catholic priesthood, and so Il Papa is sending his Inquisition heavies round to the seminaries (these are the colleges where misguided young men are trained to throw their lives away in the service of an institution that hates them) to root them out. The “apostolic visitations” as these witch hunts are called will attempt to identify the closet cases and make a note of the liberated – and then shown them the door.

These victims should count themselves lucky; a few centuries ago the Church would have gladly introduced them to other faggots – wooden ones that would have made a nice big bonfire underneath them.

The gay boys are not wanted in the Church any more. Or, as leader of the Catholic League said so charmingly on Fox News recently: “Too many sexually active gays have been in the priesthood, and it’s about time they were routed out.”

Innocent or guilty, sexually active or celibate, loyal or questioning, it’s all the same to Ratpoison. He just wants someone to be punished for what, in effect, are his own failings. Or, as William Saletan put it in Slate magazine: “The one thing everyone knows about the Roman Catholic Church is that you’re supposed to confess your sins. Everybody, that is, except the church’s leaders. First they failed to come clean about sexual abuse by priests. Then they failed to come clean about having covered up the abuse. Every time they assured the public that nothing else would come out, something else came out.”

News of the persecution plans had been circulating for years, but now the Vatican is said to have prepared a document to be used as the witch finders make their progress around the 229 seminaries in the United States. The New York Times obtained a copy of this document, which has not yet been officially approved by the Vatican. There is a suspicion that it was leaked to the NYT in order to test public reaction to it.

Among the 96 questions in the 12-page manual are “Is there a clear process for removing from the seminary faculty members who dissent from the teachings of the church?” “Is there evidence of homosexuality in the seminary? Are there signs of “particular friendships?”

The prelate overseeing the American pogrom (the Witch Finder General, I suppose), Archbishop Edwin O’Brien told the National Catholic Register that “men with strong homosexual inclinations” should not be enrolled in seminaries even if they have been celibate for years.

O’Brien did not make clear how the “strength” of gay “inclinations” is to be measured. Is there an official Vatican “gayometer”, perhaps?

Debbie Weill, executive director of the gay and lesbian Catholic group DignityUSA said the bishops were “scapegoating” gay people. “For the Catholic Church to now suddenly ban gay priests, it would be a very foolish decision and harmful to the church overall,” she said. (So, it might have some positive side effects, then.)

Estimates of the numbers of gay priests in the USA range from 10% to 60%. Imagine if the latter were to be the true number, and vengeful Ratpoison kicked them all out. The Church is already desperately short of priests to carry out its arcane practices – imagine if it now had to get rid of more than half of the remainder. The Church in the West would die. (I’m suddenly warming to this whole thing).

In an effort to reassure those liberal Catholic appalled by developments, the Vatican Correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter, John L. Allen, wrote in the New York Times that the Vatican didn’t always mean what it said. “Although it is difficult for many Anglo-Saxons to grasp, when the Vatican makes statements like ‘no gays in the priesthood’ it doesn’t actually mean ‘no gays in the priesthood’. It means ‘As a general rule, this is not a good idea, but we all know there will be exceptions’.” Mr Allen argues for the acceptance of a spot of hypocrisy to oil the Vatican’s wheels. The Holy See may present a stern face to the world, but in real life it’s a cuddly bunny, he seems to be saying.

But this won’t do. Another New York Times report was about a woman called Brenda Oliver, who was “depressed and desperate for spiritual sustenance”. She visited a church near her home in Brooklyn. She was OK until the priest started talking about “the men of Sodom”. What he didn’t know is that Ms Oliver is a lesbian lady. She revealed: “The preacher said that if a bunch of gays went to his house, he’d start shooting and killing them”.

And this surely the problem with the “it’s all just bluster” argument. When a world figure such as Ratpoison persistently issues defamatory and condemnatory statements against a minority, it is bound to unleash violent feelings among his followers, feeling that would otherwise be kept under control. We need to ask, how many others are watching this anti-gay hatemongering and beginning to feel that it’s OK to shoot gays – after all, dear Papa Ratpoison hates them, and he literally cannot be wrong.

Andrew Sullivan, the gay Republican apologist and Catholic commentator, put it this way on his blog: “What does this document say to the gay laity? It says: you’re so sick in the head you cannot lead moral lives. God may be able to forgive you but our job is to protect every other Catholic from your disorder.”

Sullivan is of the opinion that the pope’s actions are “evil” and “will become accepted, as Benedict’s church continues to retreat from modernity into the superstitions and bigotries of earlier times… As every beleaguered politician has found, bigotry works. It may well work as a strategy for Benedict, especially in the Third World, where hatred of homosexuals is more common. But to rebuild a church on the basis of hate is a truly odious strategy.”

But what of the gay priests themselves? The New York Times tracked a few down and asked for their reaction. All demanded to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions. “I do think about leaving,” said one Franciscan seminarian, “It’s hard to lead a duplicitous life, and for me it is hard not to speak out against injustice. And that’s what this is.”

Another commented: “I find I am becoming more and more angry. This is the church I’ve given my life to and believe in. I look at every person I come in contact with as someone who’s created in the image and likeness of God, and I expect that from the Church I am a part of. But I always feel like I’m ‘less than’.”

Another said he felt like a Jew in Nazi Germany and was thinking of donning a pink triangle badge in protest.

But the Reverend John Trigilio, president of the Fraternity of Catholic Clergy welcomed the clear-out. He said the ban on gays would be rather like the previous ban on epileptics. “It’s pretty much the same thing,” the raving Reverend said. “The work and ministry of the priesthood is going to be too demanding and will put a strain on them. He’s going to have to spend five to eight years in a seminary where he’s going to be with men.”

Andrew Sullivan has also carried photographs on his blog of Father Mychal Judge, a pastor for New York City firefighters, an openly gay priest who died with those he served in the rubble of the World Trade Centre on 9/11. “According to the new pope, Father Judge should never have been ordained,” Mr Sullivan notes. “The idea that gay priests somehow cannot serve straight congregants, when you have this priest working with one of the most stereotypically macho organisations – and he gave his life to them – captures some of the cruelty and bigotry we see in the Vatican now.”

Father Judge was – and indeed still is – one of the most loved Catholic Priests of recent history. Indeed, there is a campaign afoot to have him canonised (http://www.saintmychal.com/ ) and the leader of that campaign, Burt Kearns, told the New York Times: “If you look at the life of Mychal Judge, this is a man who should be on the recruiting poster for Catholic priests. He was a great priest.”

Pope Ratpoison has, indeed, painted himself into a corner with his, and we all know what cornered rats do.

However, the stupidity of his hatemongering was pointed out nicely in a letter to the International Herald Tribune from Rey Buono in Kuala Lumpur: “I hope Pope Benedict will complete his exorcism of gays from the Vatican by sandblasting Michelangelo’s blatantly homoerotic ‘Creation of Adam’ from the Sistine Chapel ceiling.”

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